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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

200 Years Together

Russo-Jewish History


Volume 1 - The Jews before the Revolution:

Ch. 1 Before the 19th century (translated by R. Butlerand J. Harris)

Ch. 2 During th e r e ign of A le xand e r I

Ch. 3 During th e r e ign of Nicho l as I

Ch. 4 During the period of reforms Ch. 5 After the murder of Alexander II




Ch. 6 I n th e Russian r e vo l utionary mov e m e nt

Ch. 7 Th e birth of Zionism

Gbr-8 At the turn of the 20th century

&Fk-9 During the Revo l ution of 1905

Ch. 10 During th e p e riod of Duma

Ch. 11 Th e J e wish and Russian nationa l consciousn e ss prior to Wor l d War I

€4^42 During Wor l d War I

Volume 2 - The Jews in the Soviet Union:

Ch. 13 The February Revolution 98

Ch. 14 During 1917 111

Ch. 15 Among Bo l sh e viks

Ch. 16 During the Civil War 136

Ch. 17 Emigration between the two World Wars 165

Ch. 18 In the 1920s 193

Ch. 19 In the 1930s 251

Ch. 20 In the camps of GULag 293

Ch. 21 During the Soviet-German War 302

Ch. 22 From the end of the war to Stalin's death 336

Ch. 23 Before the Six-Day War 351

Ch. 24 Breaking away from Bolshevism 369

Ch. 25 Accusing Russia 382

Ch. 26 The beginning of Exodus 399

Ch. 27 About the assimilation. Author's afterword 417


Chapter 1: Before the 19th century

From the Beginnings in Khazaria

[G13] In this book the presence of the Jews in Russia prior to 1772 will not be discus sed in detail. However, for a few pages we want to remember the older epochs.

One could begin, that the paths of Russians and Jews first crossed in the wars between


Kiev Rus and the Khazars- but that isn't completely right, since only the upper class of the

Khazars were of Hebraic descent, the tribe itself being a branch of the Turks that ha


accepted the Jewish faith.

If one follows the presentation of J. D. Bruzkus, respected Jewish author of the mid 2 0 th

century, a certain part of the Jews from Persia moved across the Derbent Pass to the l


Volga where Atil [west coast of Caspian on Volga delta], the capital city of the Khaza ria n Khanate rose up starting 724 AD. The tribal princes of the Turkish Khazars, at the tim e still idol-worshippers, did not want to accept either the Muslim faith - lest they should b


subordinated to the caliph of Baghdad - nor to Christianity- lestthey come under vassalage to the Byzantine emperor; and so the clan went over to the Jewish faith in 732. But there was also a Jewish colony in the Bosporan Kingdom [on the Taman Peninsula at east end of the Crimea, separating the Black Sea from the Sea of Azov] to which Hadrian had Jewish captives brought in 137, after the victory over Bar-Kokhba. Later a Jewish settlement

sustained itself without break under the Goths and Huns in the Crimea; especially Kaffa (Feodosia) remained Jew ish. In 933 Prince Igor [912-945, Grand Prince of Kiev, successor of Oleg, regent after dea th of Riurik founder of the Kiev Kingdom in 862] temporarily possessed Kerch, and his son Sviatoslav [Grand Prince 960-972] [G14] wrested the Don region from the Khazars. The K


Rus already ruled the entire Volga region including Atil in 909, and Russian ships app

eared at Samander [south of Atil on the west coast of the Caspian]. Descendents of
eared at
Samander [south of Atil on the west coast of the Caspian]. Descendents of the Khazars
the Kumyks in the Caucasus. In the Crimea, on the other hand, they combined with the
Polovtsy [nomadic Turkish branch from central Asia, in the northern Black Sea area and
Caucasus since the 10 th century; called Cuman by western historians; see second map,
below] to form the Crimean Tatars. (But the Karaim [a jewish sect that does not follow
Talmud] and Jewish residents of the Crimean did not go over to the Muslim Faith.) The
The Khazar
kingdom in the
early 10th
• G u rga nj

• Bukhara





Khazars were finally conquered [much later] by Tamerlane [orTimur, the 14 th century conqueror].

A few researchers however hypothesize (exact proof is absent) that the Hebrews had

wandered to some extent through the south Russian region in west and northwest directi on. Thus the Orientalist and Semitist Abraham Harkavy for example writes that the Jewish congregation in the future Russia "emerged from Jews that came from the Black Sea coas


and from the Caucasus, where their ancestors had lived since the Assyrian and Babyloni


captivity." J. D. Bruzkus also leans to this perspective. (Another opinion suggests it is the

remnant of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.) This migration presumably ended after the conquest of Tmutarakans [eastern shore of the Kerch straits, overlooking the eastern e nd of the Crimean Peninsula; the eastern flank of the old Bosporan Kingdom] (1097) by the Polovtsy. According to Harkavy's opinion the vernacular of these Jews at least since t he ninth century was Slavic, and only in the 17 th century, when the Ukrainian Jews fled from t


pogroms of Chmelnitzki [Bogdan Chmelnitzki, Ukrainian Cossack, 1593-1657, led the successful Cossack rebellion against Poland with help from the Crimean Tatars], did Yi


become the language of Jews in Poland.

[G15] In various manners the Jews also came to Kiev and settled there. Already under I


the lower part of the city was called "Kosary"; in 933 Igor brought Jews that had been


captive in Kerch. Then in 965 Jews taken captive in the Crimea were brought there; in


Kosaren from Atil and Samander, in 989 from Cherson and in 1017 from Tmutarakan. In Ki


western Jews also emerged.: in connection with the caravan traffic from west to east,


starting at the end of the eleventh century, maybe on account of the persecution in Eu


during the first Crusade.

Later researchers confirm likewise that in the 11 th century, the "Jewish element" in Kiev is to be derived from the Khazars. Still earlier, at the turn of the 10 th century the prese nce of a "khazar force and a khazar garrison," was chronicled in Kiev. And already "in the firs

t half of

the 11 th century the jewish-khazar element in Kiev played "a significant roll." In th

e 9 th and

10 th century, Kiev was multinational and tolerant.

At the end of the 10 th century, in the time when Prince Vladimir [Vladimir I. Svyatos


980-1015, the Saint, Grand Prince of Kiev] was choosing a new faith for the Russians,


were not a few Jews in Kiev, and among them were found educated men that suggested taking on the Jewish faith. The choice fell out otherwise than it had 250 hears earlie

r in the

Khazar Kingdom. Karamsin [1766-1826, Russian historian] relates it like this: "After h


(Vladimir) had listened to the Jews, he asked where their homeland was. 'In Jerusale


answered the delegates, 'but God has chased us in his angerand sent us into a foreign land.' 'And you, whom God has punished, dare to teach others?' said Vladimir. 'We do not want


lose our fatherland like you have.'" After the Christianization of the Rus, according


Bruzkus, a portion of the Khazar Jews in Kiev also went over to Christianity and after wards in Novgorod perhaps one of them - Luka Zhidyata - was even one of the first bishops and spiritual writers.

Christianity and Judaism being side-by-side in Kiev inevitably led to the learned zeal


contrasting them. From that emerged the work significant to Russian literature, "Sermo

n on

Law and Grace" ([by Hilarion, first Russian Metropolitan] middle 11 th century), whic



contributed to the settling of a Christian consciousness for the Russians that lasted


centuries. [G16] "The polemic here is as fresh and lively as in the letters of the apo

stles." In

any case, it was the first century of Christianity in Russia. For the Russian neophyte

s of that

time, the Jews were interesting, especially in connection to their religious presentat ion, and even in Kiev there were opportunities for contact with them. The interest was greater


later in the 18 th century, when they again were physically close.

Then, for more than a century, the Jews took part in the expanded commerce of Kiev. "I

n the

new city wall (completed in 1037) there was the Jews' Gate, which closed in the Jewis


quarter." The Kiev Jews were not subjected to any limitations, and the princes did no


handle themselves hostilely, but rather indeed vouchsafed to them protection, especial


Sviatopolk Iziaslavich [Prince of Novgorod 1078-1087, Grand Prince of Kiev 1093-111


since the trade and enterprising spirit of the Jews brought the princes financial adva ntage.

In 1113, Vladimir (later called "Monomakh"), out of qualms of conscience, even after t


death of Sviatopolk, hesitated to ascend the Kiev Throne prior to one of the Svyatosla


and "exploiting the anarchy, rioters plundered the house of the regimental commander

Putiata and all Jews that had stood under the special protection of the greedy Sviatop olk in

the capital

One reason for the Kiev revolt was apparently the usury of the J


probably, exploiting the shortage of money of the time, they enslaved the debtors wit


exorbitant interest." (For example there are indications in the "Statute" of Vladimir Monomakh that Kiev money-lenders received interest up to 50% per annum.) Karamsin therein appeals to the Chronicles and an extrapolation by Basil Tatistcheff [1686-175


student of Peter the Great, first Russian historian]. In Tatistcheff we find moreove


"Afterwards they clubbed down many Jews and plundered their houses, because they had brought about many sicknesses to Christians and commerce with them had brought about

great damage. Many of them, who had gathered in their synagogue seeking protection,

defended themselves, as well as they could, and redeemed time until Vladimir would arr ive." But when he had come, "the Kievites pleaded with him for retribution toward the [G17]


because they had taken all the trades from Christians and under Sviatopolk had had muc


freedom and power

They had also brought many over to their faith."

According to M. N. Pokrovski, the Kiev Pogrom of 1113 had social and not national char acter. (However the leaning of this "class-conscious" historian toward social interpretations is well- known.)

After he ascended to the Kiev throne, Vladimir answered the complainants, "Since many

[Jews] everywhere have received access to the various princely courts and have migrate


there, it is not appropriate for me, without the advice of the princes, and moreover c


to right, to permit killing and plundering them. Hence I will without delay call the p

rinces to assemble, to give counsel." In the Council a law limiting the interest was establishe d, which Vladimir attached to Yaroslav's "Statute." Karamsin reports, appealing to Tatistcheff,


Vladimir "banned all Jews" upon the conclusion of the Council, "and from that time for


there were none left in our fatherland." But at the same time he qualifies: "in the Ch


in contrast it says that in 1124 the Jews in Kiev died [in a great fire]; consequentl y, they had not been banned." (Bruzkus explains, that it "was a whole Quarter in the best part of



at the Jew's Gate next to the Golden Gate.")


At least one Jew enjoyed the trust of Andrei Bogoliubskii [orAndrey Bogolyubsky] in Vladimir. "Among the confidants of Andrei was a certain Ephraim Moisich, whose patronymic Moisich or Moisievich indicates his jewish derivation," and who according t o the words of the Chronicle was among the instigators of the treason by which Andrei was

murdered. However there is also a notation that says that under Andrei Bogoliubskii "m


Bulgarians and Jews from the Volga territory came and had themselves baptized" and tha


after the murder of Andrei his sonGeorgi fled to a jewish Prince in Dagestan.

In any case the information on the Jews in the time of the Suzdal Rus is scanty, as th


numbers were obviously small.

[G18] The "Jewish Encyclopedia" notes that in the Russian heroic songs (Bylinen) the


Czar" - e.g. the warrior Shidowin in the old Bylina about llya and Dobrin'a - is "a fa


general moniker for an enemy of the Christian faith." At the same time it could also b

e a

trace of memories of the struggle against the Khazars. Here, the religious basis of th


hostility and exclusion is made clear. On this basis, the Jews were not permitted to s ettle in the Muscovy Rus.

The invasion of the Tatars portended the end of the lively commerce of the Kiev Rus, a


many Jews apparently went to Poland. (Also the jewish colonization into Volhynia and Galicia continued, where they had scarcely suffered from the Tatar invasion.) The Encyclopedia explains: "During the invasion of the Tatars (1239) which destroyed Kiev, the Jews also suffered, but in the second half of the 13 th century they were invited by the Grand Princes to resettle in Kiev, which found itself under the domination of the Tatars. On account of the special rights, which were also granted the Jews in other

possessions of the Tatars, envy was stirred up in the town residents againstthe Kiev J ews." Similar happened not only in Kiev, but also in the cities of North Russia, which "unde

r the

Tatar rule, were accessible for many [Moslem? see note 1] merchants from Khoresm or Khiva, who were long since experienced in trade and the tricks of profit-seeking. Thes


people bought from the Tatars the principality's right to levy Tribute, they demanded

excessive interestfrom poor people and, in case of their failure to pay, declared the


to be their slaves, and took away their freedom. The residents of Vladimir, Suzdal, an


Rostov finally lost their patience and rose up together at the pealing of the Bells ag


these usurers; a few were killed and the rest chased off." A punitive expedition of th

e Khan

againstthe mutineers was threatened, which however was hindered via the mediation of Alexander Nevsky. "In the documents of the 15 th century, Kievite [G19] jewish tax-lea sers are mentioned, who possessed a significant fortune."

Note l.The word "Moslem" is in the German but not French translation. I am researchin


the Russian original.


The Judaizing Heresy

[G19] "A migration of Jews from Poland to the East, including White Russia [Belarus],


also be noted in the 15 th century: there were lessers of tolls and other assessments in Minsk,

Polotsk" and in Smolensk, although no settled congregations were formed there. After t


short-lived banishment of jews from Lithuania (1496) the "eastward movement went fort


with particular energy at the beginning of the 16 th century."

The number of jews that migrated into the Muskovy Rus was insignificant although

"influential Jews at that time had no difficulties going to Moscow." Toward the end of


15 th century in the very center of the spiritual and administrative power of the Rus,

a change

took place that, though barely noticed, could have drawn an ominous unrest in its wak e, and

had far-reaching consequences in the spiritual domain. It had to do with the "Judaizin


Heresy." Saint Joseph of Volokolamsk [1439-1515] who resisted it, observed: "Since th


time of Olga and Vladimir, the God-fearing Russian world has never experienced such a seduction."

According to Kramsin it began thus: the Jew Zechariah, who in 1470 had arrived in Novg


from Kiev, "figured out how to lead astray two spirituals, Dionisand Aleksei; he assur


them, that only the Law of Moses was divine; the history of the Redeemer was invented;


Messiah was not yet born; one should not pray to icons, etc. Thus began the Judaizing

heresy." Sergey Solovyov [1820-79; great Russian historian] expands on this, that Zech


accomplished it "with the aid of five accomplices, who also were Jewish," and that thi


heresy "obviously was a mixture of Judaism and Christian rationalism that denied the

mystery of the holy Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ." "The Orthodox Priest Al


called himself Abraham, his wife he called Sarah and along with Dionis corrupted many

spirituals and lay


the number of his Novgorod pupils, since his wisdom consisted entirely and only in th


rejection of Christianity and the glorification of Judaism [G20] h seduced

the Russians with the jewish cabbala, a teaching that captured curious ignoramuses and


the 15 th century was well-known, when many educated men "sought in it the solution to


important riddles of the human spirit. The cabbalists extol led themselves they were a ble to discern all secrets of nature, explain dreams, prophecy the future, and conjure spi rits."

Probably, Zecharia

But it is hard to understand how Zechariah was able so easily to

J. Gessen, a jewish historian of the 20 th century represents in contrast the opinion:

"It is

certain, that jews participated neither in the introduction of the heresy pread" (but

with no indication of his sources). The encyclopedia of Brockhausand Efron [1890-190


Russian equivalent to the 1911 Britannica] explains: "Apparently the genuinely jewish element played no outstanding roll, limiting its contribution to a few rituals." The


Encyclopedia," which appeared about the same time, writes on the other hand: "today, s


the publication of the 'Psalter of the Judaizers' and other memorials, the contested q


of the jewish influence on the sects must

nor its s

be seen as settled in a positive sense."

"The Novgorod heretics respected an orderly exterior, appeared to fast humbly and zealously fulfilled all the duties of Piety," they "made themselves noticed by the peo ple and

contributed to the rapid spreading of the heresy." When after the fall of Novgorod Iva


Vassilyevich III [1440-1505, English name would be "John son of Basil," Grand Prince o


Moscoy, united the greater Russian territory under Moscow's rule] visited the city, he



impressed by their Piety and took both of the first heretics, Aleksei and Dionis, to M oscow in 1480 and promoted them as high priests of the Assumption of Mary and the Archangel cathedrals of the Kremlin. "With them alsothe schismwas brought over, the roots of whi


remained in Novgorod. Aleksei found special favorwith the ruler and had free access to


and with his Secret Teaching" enticed not only several high spirituals and officials,


moved the Grand Prince to appoint the archimandrite [=head abbot in Eastern Orthodox


Zossima as Metropolitan, that is, the head of the entire Russian church - a man from t


very circle of the those he had enticed with the heresy. In addition, he enticed Helen

a to the

heresy — daughter-in-law of the Grand Prince, widow of Ivan the [G21] Younger and moth


of the heir to the throne, the "blessed nephew Dimitri."

The rapid success of this movement and the ease with which it spread is astonishing. T his is obviously to be explained through mutual interests. "When the 'Psalter of the Judaizin g' and other works — which could mislead the inexperienced Russian reader and were sometimes unambiguously antichristian - were translated from Hebrew into Russian, one could hav


assumed that only Jews and Judaism would have been interested in them." But also "the

Russian reader was


explains the "success, which the propaganda of the 'Judaizing' had in various classes


society." The sharpness and liveliness of this contact reminds of that which had emerg ed in Kiev in the 11 th century.

interested in the translations of jewish religious texts" - and

The Novgorod Archbishop Gennadi uncovered the heresy in 1487, sent irrefutable proofs


it to Moscow, hunted the heresy out and unmasked it, until in 1490 a church Council

assembled to discuss the matter, under leadership of the just-promoted Metropolitan

Sossima. "With horror they heard the complaint of Gennadi,


Christ and the mother of God, spit on the cross, call the icons idolatrous images, bit

that these apostates in

e on

them with their teeth and throw them into impure places, believe in neither the kingdo

m of

Heaven nor the resurrection of the dead, and entice the weak, while remaining quiet in


presence of zealous Christians." "From the Judgment [of the Council] it is apparent, t hat the Judaizers did not recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God, that they taught, the Mess iah is

not yet appeared, that they observe the Old Testament Sabbath day rather then the

Christian Sunday." It was suggested to the Council to execute the heretics but, in acc


with the will of Ivan III, they were sentenced instead to imprisonment and the heresy


anathematized. "In view of the coarseness of the century and the seriousness of the mo


corruption, such a punishment was [G22] extraordinarily mild." The historians unanimou


explain this hesitation of Ivan in that the heresy had already spread widely under his


roof and was practiced by well-known, influential people," among whom was Feodor Kuritsyn, Ivan's plenipotentiary Secretary (so to speakthe "Foreign Minister"), "famou

s on

account of his education and his capabilities." "The noteworthy liberalism of Moscow f


from the temporary 'Dictator of the heart' F. Kuritsyn. The magic of his secret salon


The heresy was by no means


abatement, but rather


n of the

enjoyed even by the Grand Prince and his daughter-in-law

prospered magnificently and spread itself out. At the Moscow

astrology and magic along with the attractions of a pseudo-scientific revisio

entire medieval worldview" were solidly propagated, which was "free -thinking, the app eal of

enlightenment, and the power of fashion."


The Jewish Encyclopedia sets forth moreover that Ivan III "out of political motivation

s did not

stand against the heresy. With Zechariah's help, he hoped to strengthen his influence


Lithuania," and besides that he wanted to secure the favor of influential jews from th


Crimea: "of the princes and rulers of Taman Peninsula, ZachariasdeGhisolfi," and of th

e jew

Chozi Kokos, a confidant of the Khan Mengli Giray [orGirai].

After the Council of 1490 Sossima continued to sponsor a secret society for several ye


but then was himself discovered, and in 1494 the Grand Prince commanded him to depose himself without process and to withdraw into a cloister, without throwing up dust and to all appearances willingly. "The heresy however did not abate. For a time (1498) its votari

es in

Moscow seized almost all the power, and theircharge Dmitrii, the Son of the Princess H


was coronated as Czar." Soon Ivan III reconciled himself with his wife Sophia Palaiolo


and in 1502 his son Vassili inherited the throne. (Kurizyn by this time was dead.) Of


heretics, after the Council of 1504, one part was burned, a second part thrown in pris on, and

a third fled to Lithuania, "where they formally adopted the Mosaic faith."

It must be added that the overcoming of the Judaizing Heresy gave the spiritual life o

f the

Muscovy Rus at turn of the 16 th century a new impetus, and contributed to recognizing


need for spiritual education, for schools for the Spiritual; and the name of Archbisho


Gennadi is associated with the collecting and [G23] publication of the first church-sl avic Bible, of which there had not to that point been a consolidated text corpus in the Christian East.

The printing press was invented, and "after80 years this Gennadi Bible


Ostrog (1580/82) as the first church-slavic Bible; with its appearance, it took over t he entire

orthodox East." Even academy member S. F. Platonov gives a generalizing judgment abou


the phenomenon: "The movement of judaizing no doubt contained elements of the West

European rationalism


attitude of critique and skepticism produced by them over against dogma and church ord



was printed

The heresy was condemned; its advocates had to suffer, but th

Today's Jewish Encyclopedia remembers "the thesis that an extremely negative posture toward Judaism and the Jews was unknown in the Muskovy Rus up to the beginning of the

16 th century," and derives it from this struggle against the Judaizers. Judging by th

e spiritual

and civil measures of the circumstances, that is thoroughly probable. J. Gessen howeve


contends: "it is significant, that such a specific coloring of the heresy as Judaizing

did not

lessen the success of the sects and in no way led to the development of a hostile stan


toward the Jews."

You're in; no, you're out. Okay, you're in

[G23] Judging by its stable manner of life, it was in neighboring Poland that the bigg


jewish community emerged, expanded and became strong from the 13 th to the 18 th centu ry.

It formed the basis of the future Russian jewry, which became the most important part


World jewry until the 20 th century. Starting in the 16 th century "a significant numb er of Polish and Czech Jews emigrated" into the Ukraine, White Russia and Lithuania. In the 15 th century jewish merchants traveled still unhindered from the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom


Moscow. But that changed under Ivan [IV] the Terrible: jewish merchants were forbidde



entry- When in 1550 the Polish King Sigismund August desired to permit them free entr


into Russia, this was denied by Ivan with these words: "We absolutely do not permit th


entry of the Jew into my lands, because we do not wish to see evil in our lands, but r


may God grant that the people in my land may have rest from that irritation. And you,


brother, should not write us on account of the jews again," forthey had "alienated th


Russians from [G24] Christianity, brought poisonous plants into our lands and done muc


evil to our lands."

According to a legend, Ivan IV [the Terrible], upon the annexation of Polotsk in 156


ordered all jews to be baptized in response to complaints of Russian residents "agains t evil things and bullying" by jews, leasers and others empowered by Polish magnates. Those t


refused, apparently about 300 persons, are supposed to have been drowned in his presen


in the Dvina. But careful historians, as e.g. J. I. Gessen, do not confirm this versio n even in moderated form and do not mention it once.

Instead of that, Gessen writes that under the False Dimitry I (1605/06) both jews and


foreigners "in relatively large number" were baptized in Moscow. The story goes accord


to "In the Time of Troubles" [by Sergey Ivanov, regarding the 15-year period 1598-1613


confusion following the failed Rurik Dynasty] that the False Dimitry II (the "Thief o


Tushino") was "born a Jew." (The sources give contradictory information regarding the ancestry of "the Thief of Tushino.")

[Sozhenitsyn relates that after the "Time of Troubles," jews, like Polish-Lithuanian f olk in

general had restricted rights in Russia. [G25] There was prohibition of peddling in Mo


or to travel beyond Moscow at all. But ordinances were contradictory.

[Mikhail Feodorovich (Michael son of Theodore; 1613 became first Romanov chosen as cza


did not pursue a principial policy against Jews.

[Alexis Michaelovitch (Alex son of Michael; czar 1645). No sign of discrimination agai


jews in the law book; free access granted to all cities including Moscow. During the s


of Lithuania, as well as later wars, treatment of Jews in captivity was not worse than



[After the Treaty of Andrusovo (1667) (in which Smolensk, Kiev and the whole eastern b


of the Dnieper River remained Russian) jews were invited to stay, and many did. Some

converted to Christianity and some of these became heads of noble families. A small nu


of baptized migrated to a Cossack village on the Don and a dozen Cossackfamilies descended from them. Samuel Collins, an Englishman residing in Moscow at the time, related that "in a short time, the Jews have in a remarkable way spread through the ci ty and court, helped by the mediation of a Jewish surgeon."


[Feodor III, son of Alexis (Theodore, 1676 czar]. Jews not to be assessed toll on entr

y to

Moscow, because they are not allowed in, whether with or without wares. But the practi


did not correspond to the theory.

[In the first year of Peter the Great, doors were opened to talented foreigners, but n ot jews on account of their being "rogues and deceivers." Yet there is no evidence of limitati


imposed on them, nor special laws. Indeed, jews were found close to the Emperor:

• Vice-chancellor Baron Peter Shafirov

• close confidant Abram Veselovsky, later accused of thieving

• his brother, Isaac Veselovsky

• Anton de Vieira, general police master of Petersburg

• Viviere, head of secret police

and others. To A. Veselovsky, Peter wrote that what matters is competence and decenc


not baptism or circumcision.

[Jewish houses in Germany inquired whether Russia would guarantee their commerce with Persia, but never received it.

[At start of 18 th century there was increased jewish trade activity in Little Russia (=Ukraine),

[G27] a year before Russian merchants got the right. Hetman (Ukrainian chief) Skoropad


gave order several times for their expulsion but this was not obeyed and jewish presen


actually increased.

[Catherine I (1724 Czarina) decreed removal of jews from Ukraine and Russian cities; b


only lasted one year.

[Peter II (Czar 1727) permitted jews into Little Russia, first as "temporary visits" o

n the

ground of their usefulness for trade, then, more and more reasons found to make it permanent. Under Anna (1730 Czarina), this right was extended to Smolensk and Slobodsk


In 1734 permission was given to distil brandy, and in 1736 it was permitted to import


from Poland into Russia.

[Baltic financier Levy Lipman probably bailed out the future czarina Anna financially


she was living in Courland. [G28] Later, he achieved a high rank in her court in finan


administration, and received various monopoly rights.]


Elisabeth [1741 czarina] however issued a Ukase [imperial Russian decree] one year after taking the throne (Dec 1742): "Jews are forbidden to live anywhere in our realm; now it has been made known to us, that these jews still find themselves in our realm and, under various pretexts, especially in Little Russia, they prolong their stay, which is in no way beneficial; but as we must expect only great injuries to our loyal subjects from such haters of the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, [G29] we order: all jews, male and female, along with their entire possession, to be sent without delay from our realm, over the border, and in the future not allowed back in, unless it should be that one of them should confess our Greek-Christian religion."

This was the same religious intolerance that shook Europe for centuries. The way of th


of that time was not unique in any special Russian way, nor was it an exclusively jew-


attitude. Among Christians the religious intolerance was not practiced with any less c ruelty. Thus, the Old Believers, i.e. men of the same orthodox faith, were persecuted with fir

e and


This Ukase of Elisabeth "was made known throughout the realm. But immediately attempt


were made to move the Ruler to relent." The military chancellor reported to the Senate


the Ukraine that already 140 people were evicted, but that "the prohibition for jews t

o bring

goods in would lead to a reduction in state income." The Senate reported to the Czarin

a that

"trade had suffered great damage in Little Russia as well as the Baltic provinces by t he Ukase of the previous year to not allow jews into the realm, and also the state burse would


by the reduction of income from tolls." The czarina answered with the resolution: "I d


no profit from the enemies of Christ."

[Sozhenitsyn discusses contradictory sources as to the number of jews that were actual


evicted, ranging from almost none, to 35,000, the latter figure having questionable or


[G30] strong resistance to the edict by jews, land proprietors and the state apparatus


meant it was enforced almost as little as previous attempts had been.


[(G31) Catherine II, Czarin 1762 in consequence of a coup, and also being a neophyte t


Orthodoxy herself, was unwilling to start her reign opening things up for jews, though


Senate advised for it. Jews pressed for it and had spokesmen in Petersburg, Riga, and

Ukraine. [G32] She found a way around her own law in permitting their entry for colonization into "New Russia" [area between Crimea and Moldavia], which was still a wasteland. Was organized secretly from Riga, and the nationality of the jews was kept more or less secret. Jews went there from Poland and Lithuania.

[In the first Partition of Poland, 1772, Russia reacquired White Russia (Belarus) alon

g with

her 100,000 jews.]

After the 11 th century more and more jews came into Poland because princes and late


kings encouraged "all active, industrious people" from western Europe to settle there.


actually received special rights, e.g. in 13 th c, from Boleslavthe Pious; in 14 th c,

from Kasimir the Great; in 16 th c, from Sigismund I and Stephan Bathony; though this sometimes alternated with repression, e.g. in 15 th c, by Vladislav Yagiello and Alexander, son of Kasimir:

there were two pogroms in Krakow. In 16 th c several ghettos were constructed partly t


protect them. The Roman Catholic spirituals were the most continuous source of a hosti


stance. Nevertheless on balance it must have been a favorable environment, since in fi


half of 16 th c. [G33] the jewish population increased substantially. There was a big

role for

jews in the business activity of landlords in that they became leasers of the brandy d



After the Tater devastation, Kiev in the 14 th c. came under Lithuania and/or Poland, and in this arrangement "more and more jews wandered from Podolia and Volhynia into the

Ukraine," in the regions of Kiev, Poltava, and Chernigov. This process accelerated whe

n a

large part of Ukraine came directly under Poland in the Union of Lublin, 1569. The mai


population consisted of orthodox peasants, who for a long time had had special rights


were free of tolls. Now began an intensive colonization of the Ukraine by the polish S


(Polish nobility) with conjoint action by the jews. "The Cossacks were forced into imm


and obligated to perform drudgery and pay taxes

orthodox peasants with various taxes and service duties, and in this exploitation the


also partly played a sad role." They leased from the lords the "propination," i.e. the

right to

distil vodka and sell it, as well as other trades. "The jewish leasers, who represente

d the

Polish lord, received - of course only to a certain degree - the power that the landho


strove to wring from the peasan

had over the peasants; and since the jewish leasers ts a

maximum profit, the rage of the peasants rose not only against the Catholic landlords


alsoagainstthe jewish leasers. When from this situation a bloody uprising of the Cossa


The Catholic lords burdened the


arose in 1648 under leadership of Chmelnitsky, Jews as well as Poles were the victim s" - 10,000 jews died.

The jews were lured in by the natural riches of the Ukraine and by polish magnates tha


were colonizing the land, and thus assumed an important economic role. Since they serv


the interests of the landlords and the regime tred of

the jews brought on themselves the ha

the residents." N. I. Kostomarov adds that the jews leased not only various branches o

f the

privileged industries but even the orthodox churches, gaining the right to levy a fee


ba ptisms.

After the uprising, the "jews, on the basis of the Treaty of BelaiaTserkov (1651) were


given the right to resettle in the Ukraine


the royal industries and the industries of the Szlachta, and so it was to remain."

The Jews were like before resident and l

"Going into the 18 th c. brandy distilling was practically the main profession of jew s." "This

trade often led to conflicts with the peasants, who sometimes were drawn into the tave


not so much because well-to-do, but on account of their poverty and misery."

Included among the restrictions placed on the Polish jews in response to demands of th


Catholic church was the prohibition against jews having Christian house-servants.

[G34] Because of the recruitment coupled with the state tax increases in neighboring R


not a few refugees came to Poland, where they had no rights. In the debates of Catheri


commission for reworking a new Law code (1767/68), one could hear that in Poland "alre


a number of Russian refugees are servants to jews."

The Kahal and Civil Rights

[G34] The jews of Poland maintained a vigorous economic relation to the surrounding population, yet in the five centuries that they lived there, did not permit any influe nce from outside themselves. One century after another rolled by in post-medieval European

development, while the Polish jews remained confined to themselves, and were always a


anachronistic appearance. They had a fixed order within themselves. (Here it is grante d, that these conditions, which later remained intact also in Russia until the middle of the 1 9 th century, were favorable for the religious and national preservation of the jews from t he very

beginning of their Diaspora.) The whole jewish life was guided by the Kahal, which ha


developed from the communal life of the jews, and the Rabbis. [The Kahal, pi. Kehilot


the autonomous organization of the leadership of the jewish congregations in Poland.]

[Solzhenitsyn relates that the Kahal was a buffer between polish authorities and jewis


people; collected the taxes for example. Took care of the needy and also regulated jew


commerce, approved resales, purchases, and leases. Adjudicated disputes between jews, which could not be appealed to the secular legal system without incurring the ban (her em).


What may have started as a democratic institution took on the qualities of an oligarch

y bent

on maintaining its own power. In turn, the rabbis and Kahal had a mutually exploitativ


relation, in that the rabbis were the executive enforcement arm of the Kahal, and the


owed their position to appointment by the Kahal. Likewise, the Kahal owed the maintena


of its power more to the secular regime than to its own people.

[Toward end of 17 th century and through 18 th century, the country was torn by strif e; the magnates' arbitrariness increased further. Jews became poor and demoralized, and

hardened in early Middle-age forms of life. [G35] "They became child-like or better: c



[16 th century jewish spiritual rulers were concentrated in German and Polish jewry. T hey put barriers up against contact with outsiders. The rabbinate held the jews in firm bondag

e to

the past.]

The fact that the jewish people have held themselves together in their diaspora for 2,


years inspires wonder and admiration. But when one examines certain periods more close


as e.g. the Polish/Russian one in the 16 th and into the middle of the 17 th century, and how

this unity was only won by means of methods of suppression exercised by the Kehilot, t


one no longer knows if it can be evaluated merely as an aspect of religious tradition.

If the slightest trace of such isolationism were detected amongst us Russians, we would be severely faulted.

When jewry came under the rule of the Russian state, this indigenous system remained,


which the hierarchy of the Kahal had a self-interest. According to J. I. Gessen, all t he anger that enlightened jews felt against the ossifying Talmudic tradition became stronger in


middle of the 19 th century: "The representatives of the ruling class of jewry staked

everything on persuading the [Russian] administration of the necessity to maintain thi


centuries-old institution, which reflected the interests both of the Russian power and

of the

ruling jewish class"; "the Kahal in connection with the Rabbis held all the power and


seldom, abused it: it misappropriated public funds, trampled the rights of the poor, arbitrarily increased taxes and wreaked vengeance on personal enemies." At the end of


18 th century the Governor of one the administrative regions attached to Russia wrote in his

report: "The rabbis, [G36] the spiritual Council and the Kahal, 'which are knitted clo


together, hold all things in their hand and lord it over the conscience of the jews, a nd in complete isolation rule over them, without any relation to the civil order.'"

In 18th century Eastern European jewry two movements developed: the religious one of t


Hassidim [or Hasidim, or Chasidim] and the enlightening one favoring secularculture,

spearheaded by Moses Mendelsohn; but the Kehiloth suppressed both with all its might.


1781 the Rabbinate of [Lithuanian] Vilna placed the ban over the Hassidim and in 1784


Assembly of Rabbis in [White Russian] Mogilev declared them as "outlaws and their


property as without owner. Thereafter mobs laid waste to the houses of Hassidim in sev


cities," i.e. it was an intra-jewish pogrom. The Hassidim were persecuted in the most


and unfair manner; their rivals did not even feel embarrassed to denounce them before


Russian authorities with false political charges. In turn, the officials in 1799, base

d on the

complaint of Hassidics, arrested members of the Kehilot of Vilna for embezzlement of t


money. The Hassidim movement expanded, being especially successful in certain province


The rabbis had hassidic books publicly burned and the Hassidim emerged as defenders of


people against abuses of the Kehilot. "It is apparent that in those times the religiou

s war

overshadowed other questions of religious life."

The part of White Russia that fell to Russia in 1772 consisted of the Provinces of Polotsk (later Vitebsk) and Mogilev. In a communique to those governments in the name of Catherine it was explained that their residents "of whichever sex and standing they might be" would from now on have the right to public exercise of faith and to own property in addition to "all rights, freedoms and privileges which their subjects previously enjoyed." The

jews were thus legally set as equals to Christians, which had not been the case in Pol and. As to the jews, it was added that their businesses "stay and remain intact with all those


that they today

.enjoy" - i.e. nothing would be taken away from Polish rights eithe


Through this, the previous power of the Kehilot survived: the jews with their Kahal sy


remained isolated from the rest of the population and were not immediately taken into


class of traders and [G37] businessmen that corresponded to their predominant occupati


In the beginning, Catherine was on her guard not only against any hostile reaction of


Polish nobility, from whom power threatened to slip away, but also against giving an

unfavorable impression to her Orthodox subjects. But she did extend wider rights to th


jews, whom she wished well and promised herself of their economic utility to the natio


Already in 1778 the most recent general Russian regulation was extended to White Russi


those holding up to 500 Rubles belonged to the class of trade-plying townsmen; those w


more capital, to the class of merchant, endowed into one of three guilds according to possession: both classes were free of the poll tax and paid 1% of their capital which


"declared according to conscience."

This regulation was of particularly great significance: it set aside the national isol ation of

jews up to that time -Catherine wanted to end that. Further, she subverted the traditi



Polish perspective on jews as an element standing outside the state. Moreover, she weakened the Kahal system, the capability of the Kahal to compel. "The process began o


The jews availed themselves to a great extent

pressing jews into the civil organism of the

right to be registered as merchants" - so that e.g. 10% of the jewish population in th


Mogilev Province declared themselves as merchants (but only 5.5% of the Christians). T


jewish merchants were now freed from the tax obligation to the Kahal and did not have


apply to the Kahal any more for permission to be temporarily absent - they had only to


with the cognizant magistrate. (In 1780 the jews in Mogilev and Shklov greeted Catheri


upon her arrival with odes.)

With this advance of jewish merchants the civil category "jew" ceased to exist. All ot her jews had now likewise to be assigned to a status, and obviously the only one left for them


"townsmen." But at first, few wanted to be reclassified as such, since the annual poll tax for

townsmen at that time was 60 kopecks but only 50 kopecks for "jews." However, there wa


no other option. From 1783, neither the jewish townsmen [G38] nor merchants needed to

pay their taxes to the Kahal, but instead, to the magistrate, each according to his cl




him they also received their travel passes.

The new order had consequences for the cities, which only took status into considerati


not nationality. According to this arrangement, all townsmen (thus: also all jews) had


right to participate in the local class governance and occupy official posts. "Corresp onding to the conditions of that time this meant that the jews became citizens with equal right

s The

entry of jews as citizens with equal right into the merchant guilds and townsmen class


an event of great social significance," it was supposed to "transform the jews into a


economic power that would have to be reckoned with, and raise their morale." It also m


the practical protection of their life-interests easier." At that time the classes of traders and

tradesmen just like the municipal commonwealth had a broad


certain administrative and judicial power was placed into the hands of jews just like

Christians, through which the jewish population held a commercial and civil influence


significance." Jews could now not only become mayors but also advisory delegates and

judges. At first limitations were enacted in the larger cities to ensure that no more


occupied electable positions than Christians. In 1786 however "Catherine sent

to th


Governor General of White Russia a command written by her own hand: to actualize the

equality of jews 'in the municipal-class self-governance

unconditionally and witho

ut any hesitation' and 'to impose an appropriate penalty upon anyone that should hinder this equality.'"



It should be pointed out that the jews thus were given equal rights not only in contra st to

Poland, but also earlier than in France or the German states. (Under Frederick the Gre at the

jews suffered great limitations.) Indeed: the jews in Russia had from the beginning th


personal freedom that the Russian peasants were only granted 80 years later. Paradoxically, the jews gained greater freedom than even the Russian merchants and tradesmen. The latter had to live exclusively in the cities, while in contrast the jewish population could "live in colonizations in the country and distill liquor." "Although the jews dwelled in clusters [G39] not only in the city but also in the villages,

they were accounted as part of the city contingent- inclusive of merchant and townsmen classes." "According to the manner of their activity and surrounded by unfree peasantry they played an important economic roll. Rural trade was concentrated in their hands, and they leased various posts belonging to the landowners' privilege - specifically, the sale of vodka in taverns - and therewith fostered "the expansion of drunkenness." The White-Russian powers reported: "The presence ofjewsinthe villages acts with harm upon the economic and moral condition of

the rural population, because the jews

population." "In the stance taken by the powers -that-be, it was indicated among othe


things that the jews led the peasants astray with drunkenness, idleness and poverty, t


they had given them vodka on credit etc. [reception of pledges for vodka]." But "the b


operations were an attractive source of income" for both the Polish landowners and th


jewish commissioners.

encourage drunkenness among the local

Granted, the gift of citizenship that the Jews received brought a danger with it: obvi ously the jews were also supposed to acquiesce to the general rule to cease the brandy business in the

villages and move out. In 1783 the following was published: "The general rule requires


citizen to apply himself in a respectable trade and business, but not the distilling o f schnapps

as that is not a fitting business,' and whenever the proprietor 'permits the merchan


townsman or jew' to distill vodka, he will be held as a law-breaker." And thus it happ


"they began to transfer the jews from the villages to the cities to deflect them from


centuries-old occupation

the leasing of distilleries and taverns."

Naturally, to the jews the threat of a complete removal from the villages naturally ap


not as a uniform civil measure, but rather as one that was set up specially to oppose


national religion. The jewish townsmen that were supposed to be resettled into the cit

y and

unambiguously were to be robbed of a very lucrative business in the country, fell into


inner-city and inner-jewish competition. Indignation grew among the jews, and in 1784


commission of the Kehilot traveled to St Petersburg to seek [G40] the cancellation of


measures. (At the same time the Kehilot reasoned that they should, with the help of th



administration, regain their lost power in its full extent over the jewish populatio n.) But the answer of the czarina read: "As soon as the people yoked to the jewish law have


rived at the condition of equality, the Order must be upheld in every case, so that each accord ing to

his rank and status enjoys the benefits and rights, without distinction of belief or n



But the clenched power of the Polish proprietors also had to be reckoned with. Althoug

h the

administration of White Russia forbad them in 1783 to lease the schnapps distilling "t


unauthorized person, 'especiallyjews'

y to

jews. That was their right," an inheritance of centuries -old Polish custom.

the landlords continued to lease this industr

The Senate did not venture to apply force against the landholders and in 1786 removed


jurisdiction to relocate jews into cities. For this a compromise was found: The jews w

ould be

regarded as people that had relocated to the cities, but would retain the right to tem


visits to the villages. That meant that those that were living in the villages continu

ed to live

there. The Senate permission of 1786 permitted the jews to live in villages and "jews


allowed to lease from the landholders the right to produce and sell alcoholic beverage


while Christian merchants and townsmen did not obtain these rights."

Even the efforts of the delegation of Kehilot in St Petersburg was not wholly without success. They did not get what they came for -the establishment of a separate jewish court for


contentions between jews - but in 1786 a significant part of their supervisory right w as given

back: the supervision of jewish townsmen i.e. the majority of the jewish population. T


included not only the division of public benefits but also the levying of poll tax an


adjudicating the right to separate from the congregation. Thus, the administration recognized its interest in not weakening the power of the Kahal.

In all Russia, the status of traders and businessmen (merchants and townsmen) did not


the right to choose [G41] their residences. Their members were bound to that locality


which they were registered, in order that the financial position of their localities w ould not

be weakened. However, the Senate made an exception in 1782 for White Russia: The

merchants could move "as the case might be, as it was propitious for commerce" from on


city to another. The ruling favored especially the jewish merchants.

However, they began to exploit this right in a greater extent than had been foreseen:

"Jewish merchants began to be registered in Moscow and Smolensk." "Jews began soon

after the annexation of White Russia in 1882 to settle in Moscow 18 th

century the number of jews in Moscow was considerable


ranks of the Moscow merchant class began to practice wholesaling


sold foreign goods from their apartments or in the courts, or began peddling, though t

other jews in cont

Some jews that had entered t

By the end of the


was at the time forbidden."


In 1790 the Moscow merchants submitted a complaint: "In Moscow has emerged 'a not insignificant number of jews' from foreign countries and from White Russian who as opportunity afforded joined the Moscow merchant guilds and then utilized forbidden

methods of business, which brought about 'very hurtful damage,' and the cheapness of t


goods indicated that it involved smuggling, but moreover as is well-known they cut coi ns: it

is possible, that they will also do this in Moscow." As amends to "their thoroughly ca


findings," the Moscow merchants demanded their removal from Moscow. Thejewish

merchants appealed with "a counter-complaint Smolensk and Moscow merchant guilds."

that they were not accepted into the

The "Council of her Majesty" heard the complaints. In accordance with the Unified Russ


Order, she firmly established that the jews did not have the right "to be registered i

n the

Russian trading towns and harbors," but only in White Russia. "By no means is usefulne ss to be expected" from the migration of jews into Moscow . In December 1791 she promulgate



highest-order Ukase, which prohibited jews "to join the merchant guilds of the inne


Provinces," but permitted them "for a limited time for trade reasons to enter Mosco w." [G42] Jews were allowed to utilize the rights of the merchant guild and townsman class


in White Russia. The right to permanent residency and membership in the townsman clas


Catherine continued, was granted in New Russia, now accessible in the viceregencies o


Yekaterinoslav ["Glory of Catherine the Great"; much later, name changed to Dnepropetrovsk] andTaurida (shortly thereafter these became the Provinces of

Yekaterinoslav, Taurida, and Cherson); that is, Catherine allowed jews to migrate into


new, expansive territories, into which Christian merchants and townsmen from the

provinces of interior Russia generally were not permitted to emigrate. When in 1796 "i

t was

made known that groups of jews [already]


Novgorod-Syeversk Provinces," it was likewise granted there "to utilize the right of t


merchant guild and the townsman class."

had immigrated into the Kiev, Chernigov


The pre-Revolution Jewish Encyclopedia writes: The Ukase of 1791 "laid the groundwork


setting up the pale of settlement, even if it wasn't so intended. Under the conditions

of the

then-obtaining social and civic order in general, and of jewish life in particular, th


administration could not consider bringing about a particularly onerous situation and

conclude for them exceptional laws, which among other things would restrict the right


residency. In the context of its time, this Ukase did not contain that which in this r




of 1791 in no way limited the rights of jews in the choice of residency, created no sp


would have brought the jews into a less favorable condition than the Christians

'borders/ and 'for jews the way was opened into new regions, into which in general peo


could not emigrate.' The main point of the decree was not concerned with their jewishn


but that they were traders; the question was not considered from the national or relig


point of view, but only from the viewpoint of usefulness."

This Ukase of 1791, which actually privileged jewish merchants in comparison to Christ


ones, was in the course of time the basis for the future "Pale of Settlement.," which


until the Revolution castas it were a dark shadow over Russia.


By itself however the Ukase of 1791 was not so oppressive in its outworking as to prevent "a small [jewish] colony from emerging in St Petersburg by the end of the reign of Catherine II." [G43] Here lived "the famous tax-leaser Abram Peretz" and some of the merchants close to him, and also, "while the religious struggle was in full swing, the rabbi Avigdor Chaimovitch and his opponent, the famous hassidic Tzadik Zalman Boruchovitch."

In 1793 and 1795 the second and third Partition of Poland took place, and the jewish population from Lithuania, Poldolia, and Volhynia, numbering almost a million, came under Russia's jurisdiction. This increase in population was a very significant event, though for a long time not recognized as such. It later influenced the fate of both Russia and the jewry of East Europe.

"After centuries-long wandering [jewry] came under one roof, in a single great congreg ation."


* *


In the now vastly-expanded region of jewish settlement, the same questions came up as before. The jews obtained rights of Merchant guilds and townsmen, which they had not possessed in Poland, and they got the right to equal participation in the class-munici pal self-


then had to accept the restrictions of this status: they could not migra

te into the cities of the inner-Russian provinces, and were liable to be moved out of the vill ages.

With the now huge extent of the jewish population, the Russian regime no longer had a


to veil the fact that the jews continued to live in the villages simply by modeling it as a

"temporary visit." "A burning question

tolerate so many tradesmen and traders living amongst the peasants."

was whether the economic condition could

In order to defuse the problem, many Shtetl were made equal to cities. Thus, the lega


possibility came about for jews to continue living there. But with the large number of jews in

the country and the high population density in the cities, that was no solution.

[G43] Now it seemed to be a natural way out, that the jews would take advantage of th


possibility offered by Catherine to settle in the huge, scarcely-occupied New Russia.

The new

settlers were offered inducements, but this "did not succeed in setting a colonizatio


movement into motion. Even the freedom of the new settlers from taxes appeared not to


attractive enough" to induce such a migration.

Rabbi Schneui Z aim an



Thus Catherine decided in 1794 to induce the jews to emigrate with contrary measures:


jews were relocated out of the villages. At the same time, she decided to assess the e


jewish population with a tax that was double that paid by the Christians. (Such a tax


already been paid for a long time by the Old Believers, but applied to the jews, this


proved to be neither effective nor of long duration.)

Those were the last regulations of Catherine. From the end of 1796 Paul I reigned. Th


Jewish Encyclopedia evaluates him in this way: "The time of the angry rule of Paul I p


well for the jews

h was tolerant and benevolent toward the jewish population." "When the interest of jews conflicted with Christians, Paul I by no means automatically sided with the Christia n." Even

when in 1797 he ordered "measures to reduce the power of the jews and the spirituals o


the peasants," that was "actually not set up againstthe jews: the point was the protec tion of the peasants." Paul recognized also "the right of the Hassidim not to have to live in secrecy."

He extended the right of jews to belong to the merchant- and townsmen-class even to th


Courland Province (which was no Polish inheritance, and later, it also did not belong to the "pale of settlement"). Consistent with that policy, he denied the respective petitions

of the

parishes of Kovno, Kamenez-Podolsk, Kiev and Vilna, to be permitted to move the jews o


of their cities.

All edicts of Paul I concerning the jews indicate that the monarc

Paul had inherited the stubborn resistance of the Polish landholders against any chang ing of their rights; among these was the right over the jews and the right to hold court over them. They misused these rights often. Thus the Complaint of the jews of Berdychiv [Ukrain


againstthe princes of Radziwill stated: "in order to hold our [G45] religious service s, we must first pay gold to those to whom the prince has leased our faith," and against Catherin


former favorite [Simon] Zorich: "one ought not to have to pay him for the air one brea thes."

In Poland many Shtetl and cities were the possession of nobles, and the landowners assessed arbitrary and opportunistic levies that the residents had to pay.

Derzhavin and the Belarus famine

[G45] Since the start of the reign of Paul I there was a great famine in White Russi


especially in the province of Minsk. The poet Gavrila Romanovich Derzhavin, then servi ng as Senator, was commissioned to go there and determine its cause and seek a solution — fo


which task he received no money to buy grain, but instead had the right to confiscate possessions of negligent landowners, sell their stockpile and distribute them.

Derzhavin was not just a great poet, but also an outstanding statesman who left behin


unique proofs of his effectiveness which we want to delve into in the following.


The famine, as Derzhavin confirmed, was unimaginable. He writes "when I arrived in White Russia, I personally convinced myself of the great

scarcity of grain among the villagers. Due to the very serious hunger — virtually all nourished themselves from fermented grass, mixed with a tiny portion of meal or pearl barley -, "the peasants were malnourished and sallow like dead people. "In order to remedy this, I found out which of the rich landowners had grain in their storehouses," took it to the town center and distributed it to the poor; and I commanded the goods of a Polish Count "in view of such pitiless greed" to be yielded to a trustee. "After the nobleman was made aware of the dire situation he awoke from his slumber or better, from his shocking indifference toward humanity: he used every means to feed the peasants by acquiring grainfrom neighboring provinces and when after

two months the harvest time arrived

ended." When Derzhavin visited the provincial government, he so pursued the noble rulers and

the famine

[G46] district police captains that the nobility "banded together together and sent th e Czar a scurrilous complain against Derzhavin."

Derzhavin discovered that the jewish schnapps distillers exploited the alcoholism of t


peasants: "After I had discovered that the jews from profit-seeking use the lure of dr ink to beguile grain from the peasants, convert it into brandy and therewith cause a famine.


commanded that they should close their distilleries in the village Liosno." "I informe d myself from sensible inhabitants" as well as nobles, merchants, and villagers "about the mann

er of life of the jews, their occupations, their deceptions and all their pettifogging with which they provide the poor dumb villages with hunger; and on the other hand, by what means one could protect them from the common pack and how to facilitate forthem an honorabl


and respectable way out

to enable them to become useful citizens.

Afterwards, in the autumn months, Derzhavin described many evil practices of the Polis


landlords and jewish leasers in his "Memorandum on the mitigation of famine in White

Russia and on the lifestyles of the jews," which he also made known to the czar and th


highest officials of state. This Memorandum is a very comprehensive document that

evaluates the conditions inherited from the Poles as well as the possibilities for ove


the poverty of the peasants, describing the peculiarities of the jewish way of life of

that time

and includes a proposal for reform in comparison to Prussia and Austria. The very expl


practical presentation of the recommended measures makes this the first work of an enlightened Russian citizen concerning jewish life in Russia, in those first years in


Russia acquired jews in a large mass. That makes it a work of special interest.


The Memorandum consists of two parts: (1) on the residence of White Russian in general (in reviews of the Memorandum we usually find no mention of this important part) and (2) o


the jews.

[1] Derzhavin begins by establishing that the agricultural economy was in shambles. Th


peasants there were "lazy on the job, not clever, they procrastinate every small task

and are

sluggish in [G47] field work." Year in, year out "they eat unwinnowed corn: in the spr


Kolotucha or Bolotucha from [eggs and] rye meal," in summer they content themselves wi



mixture of a small amount of some grain or other with chopped and cooked grass. They


so weakened, that they stagger a round."

The local Polish landlords "are not good proprietors. They do not manage the propert

y .

themselves, but lease it out," a Polish custom. But for the lease "there are no univer

sal rules

protecting the peasants from overbearing or to keep the business aspect from falling a part."

"Many greedy leasers to a

bad way and transform them

st for

being short-term, made for 1-3 years at a time so that the leaser hastens "to get his

advantage from it

by imposing hard work and oppressive taxes bring the people in

into poor, homeless peasants." This lease is all the wor

without regard to the exhausting" of the estate.


emaciation of the peasants was sometimes even worse: "several landlords that lease


traffic in spirits in their villages to the jews, sign stipulations that the peasants

may only buy

their necessities from these leasers [triple price]; likewise the peasants may not sel

l their

cheaper than the market price." Th

product to anyone except the jewish lease holder


"they plunge the villagers into misery, and especially when they distribute again thei

r horded


they must finally give a double portion; whoever does not do it is punishe



villagers are robbed of every possibility to prosper and be full."

Then he develops in more detail the problem of the liquor distilling. Schnapps was dis


by the landlords, the landed nobility

[Szlachta] of the region, the priests, monks,


jews. Of the almost million jews, 2-3,000


in the villages and live mainly from the

liquor traffic. The peasants, "after bringing in


harvest, are sweaty and careless in what


spend; they drink, eat, enjoy

themselves, pay the jews for their old debts

and then, whatever they askfor drinks. For

this reason the shortage is already manifest

by winter

least one, and in several settlements quite a few taverns built by the landlords, where for their advantage [G48] and that of the jewish lease-holders, liquor is sold day and night There the jews trick them out of not only the life-sustaining grain, but that which is sown

in the field, field implements, household

In every settlement there is at

items, health and even their life." And all that is sharpened by the mores of the "kol eda


Jews travel especially during the harvest in autumn through the villages, and afterthe

y have

made the farmer, along with his whole family, drunk, drive them into debt and take fro


them every last thing needed to survive


him, the villager is plunged into the deepest misery." He lists also other reasons for


impoverishing of the peasants.

In that they box the drunkard's ears and p

Doubtless, behind these fateful distilleries stand the Polish landlords. Proprietor an

d leaser

act in behalf of the owner and attend to making a profit: "to this class" Gessen asser


"belonged not just jews but also Christians" especially priests. But the jews were an

irreplaceable, active and very inventive link in the chain of exploitation of these il


emaciated peasants that had no rights of their own. If the White Russian settlement ha

d not

been injected with jewish tavern managers and leasers, then the wide-spread system of

exploitation would not have functioned, and removing the jewish links in the chain wou


have ended it.

After this Derzhavin recommended energetic measures, as for example for the expurgatio


of these burdens of peasant life. The landlords would need to attend to this problem.


they alone who are responsible for the peasants should be allowed to distill liquor "u


their own

supervision and not from far-removed places," and to see to it, that "eve

ry year

a supply of grain for themselves and the peasants" would be on hand, and indeed as muc


as would be needed for good nutrition. "If the danger arises that this is not done, th en the property is to be confiscated for the state coffers." The schnapps distilling is to be

gin no sooner than the middle of September and end middle of April, i.e. the whole time of land cultivation is to be free of liquor consumption. In addition, the liquor is not to be sold during worship services or at night. The liquor stores should only be permitted "in the main streets, near the markets, mills and establishments where foreigners gather." But all the superfluous and newly-built liquor stores, "whose number has greatly increased since the

annexation of [White Russia]

immediately to cease use for that purpose: the sale of liquor in them to be forbidden." "In villages and out-of-the- way places there should not be any, that the peasant not sink into drunkenness." Jews however should "not be permitted

nor should they be the brew masters in


distilleries," and "they should not be allowed to lease the liquor stores." "Koledas"

are also

to sell liquor either by the glass orthe keg


to be forbidden; as well as the short-term leasing of operations. By means of exactin


stipulations "the leaseristo be prevented from working an operation into the ground."

Under threat of punishment is market abuse to be forbidden, by which the landlords "do


permit their peasants to buy what they need somewhere else," or "to sell theirsurplus somewhere other than to their proprietor." There were still other economic proposals:



this manner the scarcity of food can in the future be prevented in the White Russian Province."

[2] In the second part of the Memorandum, Derzhavin, going out from the taskgiven by t


Senate, submitted a suggestion for the transformation of the life of the jews in the R


Kingdom- not in isolation, but rather in the context of the misery of White Russia and


the goal to improve the situation. But here he set himself the assignment to give a br


overview of jewish history, especially the Polish period in order to explain the curre


customs of the jews. Among others, he used his conversations with the Berlin-educated

enlightened jew, physician llya Frank, who put his thoughts down in writing. "The jewi


popular teachers mingle 'mystic-talmudic' pseudo-exegesis of the Bible with the true s pirit of

the teachings

They expound strict laws with the goal of isolating the jews from oth


peoples and to instill a deep hatred against every other religion ating a

universal virtue, they contrive


of the jews has changed in the last century to their disadvantage, [G50] and in conseq


they have become pernicious subjects


they have to be brought to the point of returning to the original purity of their reli


jewish reform in Russia must begin with the foundation of public schools, in which th


Russian, German and jewish languages would be taught." What kind of prejudice is it t


believe that the assimilation of secular knowledge is tantamount to a betrayal of reli

gion and folk and that working the land is not suitable for a jew? Derzhavin declined in his Memorandum a suggestion by Nota Chaimovitsh Notkin, a major merchant from Shklov, whom he had also met. Although Notkin demurred from the most important conclusions and suggestions of Derzhavin that had to do with jews, he was at the same time in favo r, if possible, of excluding the jews from the production of liquor; and saw it as needful f or them to get an education and pursue a productive career, preferably working with their hand


whereby he also held out the possibility of emigration "into the fruitful steppe for t


In order to renew the jews morally and politic

The moral char

Instead of cultiv

an empty ceremony of honoring God


purpose of raising sheep and crops."

Following the explanation of Frank who rejected the power of the Kehilot, Derzhavin proceeded from the same general consequences: "The original principles of pure worshi


and ethics" [of the jews] had been transformed into "false concepts," by which the sim


jewish people "is misled, and constantly is so led, so much so that between them and t


of other faiths a wall has been built that cannot be broken through, which has been ma


firm, a wall that firmly binds [the jews] together and, surrounded by darkness, separa


them from their fellow citizens." Thus in raising their children "they pay plenty for


instruction - and that without time limit


They believe themselve

s to be

There the pe


are brought to a constant expectation of the Messiah iah, by

overthrowing all earthlings will rule over them in flesh and blood and restore to them


former kingdom, fame and glory." Of the youths he wrote: "they marry all too young,

sometimes before they reach ten years old, and though nubile, they are [G51] not stron


enough." Regarding the Kahal system: the inner-jewish collection of levies provides "t

o the

Kehilot every year an enviable sum of income that is incomparably higher than the stat


the true worshippers of God, and despise everyone of a different faith

conditions, there is no prospect for a change in their ways

As long as the students continue in their

[They believe] that their Mess

taxes that are raised from individuals in the census lists. The Kahal elders do not ex


anyone from the accounting. As a result, their poor masses find themselves in the cond



of severe emaciation and great poverty, and there are many of them


members of the kahal are rich, and live in superfluity; by ruling over both levers of

In contrast, th


the spiritual and secular,

they have a great power over the people. In this way the


hold. them

in great poverty and fear." The Kehilot "issues to the people every pos



which must be performed with such exactitude and speed, that one can only


Derzhavin identified the nub of the problem thusly: "[the jews'] great numbers in Whit


Russia at of the

is itself a heavy burden for the land on account of the disproportion to th

crop farmers

This disproportion is the outstanding one of several important reasons


produces here a shortage of grain and other edible stores


farmer at that time, yet each possessed and gobbled up more grain than the peasant wit


his large family, who had harvested it by the sweat of his brow

Above all, in the v

Not one of them was a cro




occupied in giving the peasant all their necessities on credit, at an extr


rate of interest; and thus the peasant, who at some time or other became a debtor to t


can no longer get free of it." Arching over this are the "frivolous landlords that put


villages intojewish hands, not just temporarily but permanently." The landowners howev


are happy to be able to shift everything on to the jews: "according to their own word s, they

regard the Jews as the sole reason for the wasting of the peasants" and the landlord o


rarely acknowledges "that he, if they were removed from his holdings, would suffer no


loss, since he receives from them no small income from the lease."

Thus Derzhavin did not neglect to examine the matter from a variety of angles: "Infair


to [the jews] we must point out [G52] also that during this grain shortage they have t


care to feed not a few hungry villagers— though everyone also knows that that came wit

h a bill: upon the harvest being brought in, they will get it back 100-fold." In a private report to the Attorney General, Derzhavin wrote, "It is hard not to err by putting all the blame on one side. The peasants booze away their grain with the jews and suffer under its shortage.


landholders cannot forbid drunkenness, for they owe almost all their income to the dis


of liquor. And all the blame cannot be placed even on the jews, that they take the las


morsel of bread away from the peasant to earn their own life sustenance."

To llya Frank, Derzhavin once said, "since the providence of this tiny scattered peopl

e has

preserved them until the present, we too must take care for their protection." And in


report he wrote with the uprightness of that time, "if the Most High Providence, to th e end of some unknown purpose, leaves (on account of His purposes) this dangerous people to


on the earth, then governments under whose scepter they have sought protection must

bear it

They are thus obligated extend their protection to the jews, so that they m

ay be useful both to themselves and to the society in which they dwell."

Because of all his observations in White Russia, and of his conclusion, and of all he wrote in

the Memorandum, and especially because of all these lines, and probably also because h


"praised the keen vision of the great Russian monarchs" "which forbade the immigration


travel of these clever robbers into their realm," is Derzhavin spoken of as "a fanatic al enemy of jews," a great Anti-Semite. He is accused - though unjustly, as we have seen - of "imputing the drunkenness and poverty of the White Russian peasant exclusively to the


jews," and his "positive measures" were characterized as given without evidence, to se


his personal ambition.

But that he was in no wise prejudiced against the jews, is indicated in that (1) his w


Memorandum emerged in 1800 in response to the [G53] actual misery and hunger of the peasants, (2) the goal was to do well by both the White Russian peasant and the jews, (3) he

distinguished them economically and (4) his desire was to orient the jews toward a rea


productive activity, of whom, as Catherine planned, a part first and foremost was supp


to have been relocated in territories that were not closed.

As a critical difficulty Derzhavin saw the instability and transientness of the jewis


population, of which scarcely 1/6 was included in the census. "Without a special, extraordinary effort it is difficult to count them accurately, because, being in citie

s, shtetl, manor courts, villages, and taverns, they constantly move back and forth, they do not

identify themselves as local residents, but as guests that are here from another distr ict or

and have the same name," and have no surnam


and "not only that, all wear the same blackgarments: one cannot distinguish them and

misidentifies them when they are registered or identified, especially in connection wi


judicial complaints and investigations." Therein the Kehilot takes care not "to disclo

se the real number, in order not unduly to burden their wealthy with taxes for the number registered."

colony." Moreover, "they all look alike

Derzhavin sought however a comprehensive solution "to reduce [the number of jews in th


White Russian villages] ng of

the original residents; yet at the same time, for those that should remain, to provide


and less degrading possibilities for earning their sustenance." In addition, he probed how to "reduce their fanaticism and, without retreating in the slightest from the rule of tol


toward different religions, to lead them by a barely-noticed way to enlightenment; and


expunging their hatred of people of other faiths, above all to bring them to give up t


besetting intention of stealing foreign goods." The goal was to find a way to separate


freedom of religious conscience from freedom from punishment of evil deeds.

without causing damage to anyone and thus to ease the feedi

Thereafter he laid out by layers and explicitly the measures to be recommended, and i


doing so gave proof of his economic and statesmanlike competence. First, "that [the je

ws] should have no occasion [G54] for any kind of irritation, to send them into flight or even to

murmur quietly," they are to be reassured of protection and favor by a manifest of the


in which should be strengthened the principle of tolerance toward their faith and the maintenance of the privileges granted by Catherine, "only with one small change to th


previous principles." (But those "that will not submit to these principles shall be gi ven the freedom to emigrate" - a demand that farexceeded in point of freedom the 20 th centur


Soviet Union). Immediately thereafter it states: aftera specific time interval, after which all

new credit is temporarily forbidden, all claims of debt between jews and Christians to


ordered, documented, and cleared "in order to restore the earlier relation of trust so that in

the future not the slightest obstruction should be found for the transformation of the


to a different way of life

laces, "for the assignment of a new life conditions." Free of debt, the jews are thus to be made as so on as

possible into freemen for the Reforms." From the vantage point of the publication of t


for the relocation into other districts" or in the old p


Manifest are all dues assessed by jews "for the equalization of debt of poor people" i

s to

applied to poor jews, to deflect the payment of Kahal debts or for the furnishings fo


migrants. From the one group, no tax is to be levied for three years — from the other, for six years—, and instead, that money is to be dedicated to the setting up of factories and


places for these jews. Landowners must abandon obligating jews in their shtetls to set


various factories and instead begin on their estates to cultivate grain, "in order tha

t they

may earn their bread with their own hands," but "under no circumstance is liquor to be


anywhere, secretly or openly," or these landholders would themselves lose their rights


the production of liquor. It was also a non-negotiable to carry out a universal, exact


of the population under responsibility of the Kahal elders. For those that had no prop erty to

declare as merchant or townsman, two new classes were to be created with smaller incom


village burghers and "colonist" (where "the denotation 'krestyanin' [farmer] would not


used because of its similarity to the word 'Christian'"). The jewish settlers would ha ve to be regarded as "free and not as serfs," but "under no condition or pretext may they dare


take Christian man- or maid-servants, they may not own a single Christian peasant, nor


expand themselves into the domain of magistrates and town fathers, so that they not ga


any special rights over Christians." "After they have declared their wish to be enroll ed in a

particular status," then must "the necessary number of young men" be sent to Petersbur


Moscow, or Riga - one group "to learn the keeping of merchant books," second to learn


trade, the third to attend schools "for agriculture and land management." Meanwhile "s


for all these areas where

land is designated for colonization." (There follows minutiae on the arrangements of plans,

surveying the land, housing construction, the order to release different groups of set


their rights in transit, the grace-period in which they would remain tax-free - all th ese details that Derzhavin laid out so carefully we pass by.) On the inner ordering of the jewish

congregation:: "in order to place the jews same as

everyone else, the Kehilot may not continue in any form." Together with the abolishmen

t of

the Kehilot is "likewise abolished all previous profiteering assessments, which the Ke


raised from the jewish people

and at the same time, the secular taxes are to be ass

energetic and precise jews should be selected as deputies


the secularauthorities


as with the other subjects" (i.e. not doubled), and "the schools and synagogues must b


protected by laws." "The males may not marry younger than 17 nor the females than 15

years." Then there is a section on education and enlightenment of the jews. The jewis


schools to the 12 th year, and thereafter the general schools, are to become more like


of other religions; "those however that have achieved distinction in the high sciences are to

be received in the academies and universities as honorary associates, doctors, profess ors" -

but "they are not


"although they may also be taken into the military service, they will e.g. "not take u

p arms

against the enemy on Saturday, which in fact often does happen." Presses for jewish bo


are to be constructed. Along with synagogues are to be constructed jewish hospitals, p


houses, and orphanages.

to be taken into the rank of officers and staff officers," becaus

[G56]Thus Derzhavin concluded quite self-consciously: "thus, this cross-grained [scatt ered]

people known as jews


in this its sad condition will observe an example of order." E

regarding enlightenment: "This first point will bear fruit — if not today and immediat


definitely in the coming times, or at worst after several generations, in unnoticed wa y," and


the jews would become "genuine subjects of the Russian throne."


While Derzhavin was composing his Memorandum, he also made it known what the Kehilot

thought about it, and made it clear that he was by no means making himself their frien d. In the official answers their rejection was formulated cautiously. It stated, "the jews a re not competent for cultivating grain nor accustomed to it, and their faith is an obstacl

e They see

no other possibilities than their current occupations, which serve their sustenance, a nd they

do not need such, but would like to remain in their current condition." The Kehilot sa


moreover, that the report entailed their own obsolescence, the end of their source of income, and so began, quietly, but stubbornly and tenaciously, to work against Derzhav


whole proposal.

This opposition expressed itself, according to Derzhavin, by means of a complaint file

d by a

jewess from Liosnoto the Czar, in which she alleged that, in a liquor distillery, Derz


"horrifically beat her with a club, until she, being pregnant, gave birth to a dead in

fant." The

Senate launched an investigation. Derzhavin answered: "As I was a quarter hour long in


factory, I not only did not strike any jewess, but indeed did not even see one." He so

ught a

personal reception by the czar. "Let me be imprisoned, but I will reveal the idiocy of the man


has made such claims

How can your Highness

believe such a foolish and untru


complaint?" (The jew that had taken the lying complaint was condemned to one yearinth


penitentiary, but after 2 or 3 months Derzhavin "accomplished" his being set free, thi

s being

now under the reign of Alexander I.)

Paul, murdered in May 1801, was unable to come to any resolution in connection with

Derzhavin's Memorandum. "It led [G57] at the time to small practical results, as one c


have expected, since Derzhavin lost his position in the change of court."

Not until the end of 1802 was the "committee for the assimilation of the Jews" establi


to examine Derzhavin's Memorandum and prepare corresponding recommendations. The committee consisted of two Polish magnates close to Alexander I: Prince Adam [Jerzy]

Czartoryski and Count (Graf) Severin Potocki as well as Count Valerian Subov. (Derzhav


observed regarding all three, that they too had great holdings in Poland, and would no

tice "a

significant loss of income" if the jews were to be removed, and that "the private inte rests of the above-mentioned Worthies would outweigh those of the state.") Also on the committe


were Interior Minister Count Kotshubey and the already-mentioned Justice Minister -th


first in Russian history - Derzhavin himself. Michael Speransky also worked with the committee. The committee was charged to invite jewish delegates form the Kehiloth of every province and these -mostly merchants of the First Guild - did come. "Besides tha

t the committee members had the right to call enlightened and well-meaning jews of their acquaintance." The already-known Nota Notkin, that had moved from White Russia to Moscow and then St Petersburg; the Petersburg tax-leaser Abram Perets, who was a clos


friend of Speransky; [Yehuda] Leib Nevachovich and Mendel Satanaver, — both friends o


Perets - and others. Not all took part in the hearings, but they exercised a significa


influence on the committee members. Worthy of mention: Abram Perets' son Gregory was

condemned in the Decembrist trial and exiled - probably only because he had discussed


Jewish Question with [Pavel] Pestel, but without suspecting anything of the Decembris


conspiracy - [G58] and because his grandson was the Russian Secretary of State, a very


position. Nevachovich, a humanist (but no cosmopolitan) who was deeply tied to Russia


cultural life - then a rarity among jews - published in Russian "The Crying Voice of t



Daughter of J udah" (1803) in which he urged Russian society to reflect on the restric

tions of

jewish rights, and admonished the Russians to regard jews as their countrymen, and thu


that they should take the jews among them into Russian society.

The committee came to an overwhelmingly-supported resolution: "[The jews] are to be

guided into the general civil life and education

k," it should be made easierforthem to become employed in trades and commerce, the

constriction of the right of free mobility should be lessened; they must become accust


to wearing ordinary apparel, for "the custom of wearing clothes that are despised strengthens the custom to be despised." But the most acute problem was that jews, on

account of the liquor trade, dwelled in the villages. Notkin "strove to win the commit tee to the view of letting the jews continue to live there, and only to take measures agains


possible abuses on their part."

To steerthem toward productive wor

"The charter of the committee led to tumult in the Kehiloth," Gessen wrote. A special convocation of their deputies in 1803 in Minsk resolved "to petition our czar, may his


become still greater, that they (the Worthies) assume no innovations for us." They dec


to send certain delegates to Petersburg, explained, that an assembly had been held for


the whole pal

e of

settlement. Quite apart from the threatening expulsion of jews from the villages, "th


of concern to pres


Kehiloth took a negative stance toward the cultural

purpose, and even called for a three-day jewish fast- "unrest



their own way of life." As answer to the main points of the Recommendation "the Kehilo


explained that the Reform must in any case be postponed 15-20 years."

Derzhavin wrote "there were from their side various rebuttals aimed to leave everythin

g as

it was. In addition, Gurko, a White Russian landowner sent Derzhavin a letter he had received: [G59] a jew in White Russia had written him regarding one of his plenipotent


in Petersburg. It said that they had, in the name of all Kehilot of the world, put the


([or herem,] i.e. the ban) on Derzhavin as a Persecutor, and had gathered a million to


used as gifts forthis situation and had forwarded it to St Petersburg. They appealed f or all

efforts to be applied to the removal of Derzhavin as Attorney General, and if that wer

e not

possible to seek his life


to sell liquor in the village taverns

s business,"

they would put together opinions from foreign regions, from different places and peopl

and in order to make it easierto advance thi

However the thing they wanted to achieve was not to be fo


on how the situation of the jews could be improved" - and in fact, such opinions, some


in French, sometimes, in German, began to be sent to the Committee.

Besides this, Nota Notkin became "the central figure that organized the little jewish

congregation of Petersburg." In 1803 "he submitted a brief to the Committee in which h


sought to paralyze the effect of the proposal submitted by Derzhavin." Derzhavin write


"Notkin came to him one day and asked, with feigned well-wishing, that he, Derzhavin,

should not take a stand all alone against his colleagues on the Committee, who all are on the side of the jews; whether he would not accept 100- or, if that is too little, 200,000


only so that he could be of one mind with all his colleagues on the committee." Derzha


"decided to disclose this attempt at bribery to the czar and prove it to him with Gurk


letter." He "thought such strong proofs prove effective and the czar would start to be


of the people that surrounded him and protected the jews." Speransky also informed th



czar of it, but "Speransky was fully committed to the jews," and - "from the first mee ting of the Jewish Committee it became apparent that all members represented the view that th


liquor distilling should

continue in the hands of jews as before."

Derzhavin opposed it. Alexander bore himself ever more coldly toward him and dismisse


his Justice Minister shortly thereafter (1803).

Beside this, Derzhavin's papers indicate that he -whether in military or civil servic

e -always

came into disfavor and was hot-headed and everywhere soon took his leave.

[G60] One has to admit, that Derzhavin foresaw much that developed in the problematic Russo-Judaic relationship throughout the entire 19 th century, even if not in the exac t and

unexpected form that it took in the event. He expressed himself coarsely, as was custo


then, but he did not intend to oppress the jews; on the contrary, he wanted to open to


jews paths to a more free and productive life.


Chapter 4: During the period of reforms

At the moment of the ascension of Alexander II to the throne, the Peasant Question in Russia had been overripe for a century and demanded immediate resolution. Then suddenl


the Jewish Question surfaced and demanded a no less urgent solution as well. In Russi a, the Jewish Question was not as ancient as the deep-rooted and barbaric institution of serf


and up to this time it did not seem to loom so large in the country. Yet henceforth, f or the rest of 19th century, and right to the very year of 1917 in the State Duma, the Jewish and the

Peasant questions would cross over and over again; they would contend with each other


thus become intertwined in their competing destiny.

Alexander II had taken the throne during the difficult impasse of the Crimean War agai nst a united Europe. This situation demanded a difficult decision, whether to hold out or t



Upon his ascension, "voices were immediately raised in defense of the Jewish populatio n." — After several weeks, His Majesty gave orders "to make the Jews equal with the rest of population in respect to military duty, and to end acceptance of underage recruits." (Soon

after, the "skill-category" draft of Jewish philistines was cancelled; this meant that


classes of the Jewish population were made equal with respect to compulsory military service. "[i]) This decision was confirmed in the Coronation Manifesto of 1856: "Jewis


recruits of the same age and qualities which are defined for recruits from other popul


groups are to be admitted while acceptance of underage Jewish recruits was to be

abolished. "[ii] Right then the institution of military cantonists was also completely


Jewish cantonists who were younger than 20 years of age were returned to their parent


even if they already had been turned into soldiers. [Cantonists were the sons of Russi


conscripts who, from 1721, were educated in special "canton (garrison) schools" for fu


military service].

The lower ranks who had served out their full term (and their descendents) received th


right to live anywhere on the territory of the Russian Empire. (They usually settled w


they terminated their service. They could settle permanently and had often become the

founders of new Jewish communities. [iii] In a twist of fate and as a historical punis


Russia and the Romanov Dynasty got Yakov Sverdlov from the descendents of one such cantonist settler.pv])

By the same manifesto the Jewish population "was forgiven all [considerable] back taxe


from previous years. ("Yet already in the course of the next five years new tax liabil


accumulated amounting to 22% of the total expected tax sum.[v])

More broadly, Alexander II expressed his intention to resolve the Jewish Question — an d in the most favorable manner. For this, the approach to the question was changed drastica lly.

If during the reign of Nicholas I the government saw its task as first reforming the J



inner life, gradually clearing it out through productive work and education with conse


removal of administrative restrictions, then during the reign of Alexander II the poli cy was

the opposite: to begin "with the intention of integrating this population with the nat


inhabitants of the country" as stated in the Imperial Decree of 1856. [vi] So the gove


had began quick removal of external constraints and restrictions not looking for possi


inner causes of Jewish seclusion and morbidity; it thereby hoped that all the remainin


problems would then solve themselves.

To this end, still another Committee for Arranging the Jewish Way of Life was establis hed in 1856. (This was already the seventh committee on Jewish affairs, but by no means the l ast). Its chairman, the above-mentioned Count Kiselyov, reported to His Majesty that "the go al of integrating Jews with the general population" "is hindered by various temporary restri


which, when considered in the context of general laws, contain many contradictions an


beget bewilderment." In response, His Majesty ordered "a revision of all existing stat utes on Jews to harmonize them with the general strategy directed toward integration of this p


with the native inhabitants, to the extent afforded by the moral condition of Jews"; t hat is, "the fanaticism and economic harmfulness ascribed to them."[vii]

No, not for nothing had Herzen struggled with his Kolokol, or Belinskyand Granovsky, o


Gogol! (For although not having such goals, the latter acted in the same direction as


former three did.) Under the shell of the austere reign of Nicholas I, the demand for


reforms and the will for them and the people to implement them were building up, and,

astonishingly, new projects were taken by the educated high governmental dignitaries m


enthusiastically than by educated public in general. And this immediately impacted th


Jewish Question. Time after time, the ministers of Internal Affairs (first Lanskoi and


Valuev) and the Governors General of the Western and Southwestern Krais [administrativ


divisions of Tsarist Russia] shared theirsuggestions with His Majesty who was quite interested in them. "Partial improvements in the legal situation of the Jews were enac ted by

the government on its own initiative, yet under direct supervision by His Majesty."[vi


These changes went along with the general liberating reforms which affected Jews as we

ll as the rest of population.

In 1858, Novorossiysk Governor General Stroganov suggested immediate, instant, and complete equalization of the Jews in all rights — but the Committee, now under the

chairmanship of Bludov, stopped short, finding itself unprepared for such a measure. I

n 1859

it pointed out, for comparison, that "while the Western-European Jews began sending th


children to public schools at the first invitation of the government, more or less tur


themselves to useful occupations, the Russian government has to wrestle with Jewish prejudices and fanaticism"; therefore, "making Jews equal in rights with the native

inhabitants cannot happen in any other way than a gradual change, following the spread


true enlightenment among them, changes in their inner life, and turning their activity


useful occupations. "[ix]


The Committee also developed arguments against equal rights. It suggested that the question being considered was not so much a Jewish question, as it was a Russian one;


it would be precipitous to grant equal rights to Jews before raising the educational a


cultural level of Russian population whose dark masses would not be able to defend themselves in the face of the economic pressure of Jewish solidarity; that the Jews ha


aspire toward integration with the rest of the citizens of the country, that they stri ve toward

achieving all civil rights while retaining their isolation and cohesion which Russians do not possess among themselves.

However, these voices did not attain influence. One after another, restrictions had be


removed. In 1859 the Prohibition of 1835 was removed: it had forbidden the Jews to tak

e a

lease or manage populated landowner's lands. (And thus, the right to rule over the pea


secretly violated." Although after 1861


remaining in the property of landowners were not formally "populated.") The new change


were aimed "to make it easierfor landowners to turn for help to Jews if necessary" in case of

though that prohibition was "in some cases

deterioration of in the manorial economy, but also "in order to somewhat widen the restricted field of economic activity of the Jews." Now the Jews could lease these lan ds and settle on them though they could not buy them. [x] Meanwhile in the Southwestern Krai

"capital that could be turned to the purchase of land was concentrated in the hands of



yet the Jews refused to credit landowners against security of the estate beca


estates could not be purchased by Jews." Soon afterwards Jews were granted the right t


buy land from landowners inside the Pale of Settlement. [xi]

With development of railroads and steamships, Jewish businesses such as keeping of inn


and postal stations had declined. In addition, because of new liberal customs tariffs introduced inl857 and 1868, which lowered customs duties on goods imported into Russi


"profits on contraband trade" had immediately and sharply decreased. [xii]

In 1861 the prohibition on Jews to acquire exclusive rights to some sources of revenue


estates was abolished. In the same year the systems of tax farming and 'wine farming' [translator's note: concessions from the state to private entrepreneurs to sell vodka to the populace in particular regions] were abolished. This was a huge blow to a major Jewis


enterprise. "Among Jews, 'tax collector' and 'contractor' were synonyms for wealth"; n


Orsha nsky writes, they could just dream about "the time of the Crimean War, when contractors made millions, thanks to the flexible conscience and peculiarview of the

Treasury in certain circles"; "thousands of Jews lived and got rich under the benefici al wing of tax farming." Now the interests of the state had begun to be enforced and contracts


become much less profitable. And "trading in spirits" had become "far less profitable than


the tax farming system."[xiii] However, as the excise was introduced in the


industry in place of the wine farming system, no special restrictions were laid on Jew s and so

now they could sell and rent distillation factories on a common basis in the Pale of

Settlement provinces. [xiv] And they had so successfully exercised this right to rent



purchase over next two decades that by the 1880s between 32 % and 76 % of all distilla


factories in the Jewish Pale of Settlement belonged to Jews, and almost all of them fe ll under category of a 'major enterprise'. [xv] By 1872, 89 % of distillation factories in the Southwestern Krai were rented by Jews.fxvi] From 1863 Jews were permitted to run distillation in Western and Eastern Siberia (for "the most remarkable specialists in t


distillation industry almost exclusively came from among the Jews"), and from 1865 th


Jewish distillers were permitted to reside everywhere. [xvii]

Regarding the spirits trade in the villages, about one-third of the whole Jewish popul ation of

the Pale lived in villages at the start of 1880s, with two or three families in each v

i Mage, [xvi ii]

as remnants of the korchemstvo [from "tavern" — the state-regulated business of retai


spirits sale]. An official government report of 1870 stated that "the drinking busines

s in the

Western Krai is almost exclusively concentrated in the hands of Jews, and the abuses encountered in these institutions exceed any bounds of tolerance." [xix] Thus it was demanded of Jews to carry on the drinking business only from their own homes . The log ic of this demand was explained by G. B. Sliozberg: in the villages of Little Russia [Ukrain e], that is, outside of the legal limits of the Polish autonomy, the landowners did not have the ri ght to carry on trade in spirits — and this meant that the Jews could not buy spirits from

landowners for resale. Yet at the same time the Jews might not buy even a small plot o


peasant land; therefore, the Jews rented peasant homes and conducted the drinking business from them. When such trade was also prohibited — the prohibition was often

evaded by using a 'front' business: a dummy patent on a spirits business was issued to


Christian to which a Jew supposedly only served as an 'attendant.' [xx]

Also, the 'punitive clause' (as it is worded in the Jewish Encyclopedia), that is, a p


accompanying the prohibition against Jews hiring a Christian as a personal servant, wa


repealed in 1865 as "incompatible with the general spirit of the official policy of to lerance."

And so "from the end of the 1860s many Jewish families began to hire Christian serva nts."[xxi]

Unfortunately, it is so typical for many scholars studying the history of Jewry in Rus sia to

disregard hard-won victories: if yesterday all strength and attention were focused on

the fight for some civil right and today that right is attained — then very quickly afterw ards that victory is considered a trifle. There was so much said about the "double tax" on the J ews as though it existed for centuries and not for very few short years, and even then it was never really enforced in practice. The law of 1835, which was at the time greeted by Jews wi th a sense of relief, was, at the threshold of 20th century dubbed by S. Dubnov as a 'Chart er of Arbitrariness.' To the future revolutionary Leo Deutsch, who in the 1860s was a young and still faithful subject, it looked like the administration "did not strictly [enforce] some


violations"; "in general, the life of Jews in Russia in the sixties was not bad

Among my Jewish

peers I did not see anyone suffering from depression, despondence, or estrangement as a result


restrictions on

the rights" of Jews, "they turned a blind eye to


oppression" by their Christian mates. [xxii] But then he suddenly recollects his revol

utionary duty and calls everything given to the Jews during the reign of Alexander I as, "in es sence, insignificant alleviations" and, without losing a beat, mentions "the crimes of Alexan der II" — although, in his opinion, the Tsarshouldn't have been killed. [xxiii] And from the mid dle of the 20th century it already looks like for the whole of 19th century that various comm ittees and commissions were being created for review of Jewish legal restrictions "and they c ame to the conclusion that the existing legal restrictions did not achieve their aims and should be


Yet not a single one of the projects worked out by the Committee


implemented. "[xxiv]


It's rid of, forgotten, and no toasts made.

After the first Jewish reforms by Alexander II, the existence of the Pale of Settlemen

t had

become the most painful issue. "Once a hope about a possibility of future state reform

s had

emerged, and first harbingers of expected renewal of public life had barely appeared,


Jewish intelligentsia began contemplating the daring step of raising the question of abolishing the Jewish Pale of Settlement altogether."[xxv] Yet still fresh in the Jewi


memory was the idea of 'selectivity': to impose additional obligations on not-permanen


settled and unproductive Jews. And so in 1856 an idea to petition His Majesty appeared


the social strata of "Jewish merchants, citizens of St. Petersburg, and out-of-towner s," who

"by their social standing and by the nature of their activity, more closely interacted with the central authorities. "[xxvi] The petition asked His Majesty "not to give privileges to the whole Jewish population, but only to certain categories," to the young generation "raised in


spirit and under the supervision of the government," "to the upper merchant class," an

d "to

the good craftsmen, who earn their bread by sweat of their brow"; so that they would b


"distinguished by the government with more rights than those who still exhibited nothi


special about their good intentions, usefulness, and industriousness

is so that the Merciful Monarch, distinguishing wheat from chaff, would be kindly disposed to gra


several, however modest privileges to the worthy and cultivated among us, thus encouraging good and praiseworthy actions. "[xxvii] (Even in all their excited hopes t


could not even imagine how quickly the changes in the position of the Jews would be

implemented in practice —already in 1862 some of the authors of this petition would as


"about extending equal rights to all who graduate from secondary educational instituti


for the grammar school graduates "of course, must be considered people with a Europea


education. "[xxviii]

Our petition

And yes, "in principle, the Tsardid not mind violations of the laws concerning the Jew ish Pale of Settlement in favor of individual groups of the Jewish population." In 1859 Jewish merchants of the 1st Guild were granted the right of residency in all of Russia (and t he 2nd Guild in Kiev from 1861; and alsofor all three guilds in Nikolayev, Sevastopol, and Ya

lta)[xxix] with the right of arranging manufacturing businesses, contracts, and acquiring real es tate. Earlier, doctors and holders of masters degrees in science had already enjoyed the rig ht of


universal residency (including the right to occupy posts in government service; here w


should note a professor of medicine G.A. Zakharyin, who in the future would pronounce


fatal judgment about the illness of Alexander III). From 1861 this right was granted t


"candidates of universities," that is, simply to university graduates, [xxx] and also "to persons of free professions. "[xxxi] The Pale of Settlement restrictions were now lifted even

from the "persons, desiring to obtain higher education

academies, universities, and technical institutes. "[xxxii] Then, as a result of petit ions from

individual ministers, governors, and influential Jewish merchants (e.g., Evzel Ginzbur g), from

1865 the whole territory of Russia including St. Petersburg was opened to Jewish artis


though only for the period of actual professional activity. (The notion of artisans wa

s then widened to include all kinds of technicians such as typesetters and typographic workers. )[xxxiii]

namely to persons, entering medical

Here it is worth keeping in mind that merchants relocated with their clerks, office wo


various assistants, and Jewish service personnel, craftsmen, and also with apprentices


pupils. Taken altogether, this already made up a notable stream. Thus, a Jew with a ri ght of residency outside of the Pale was free to move from the Pale, and not only with his fa mily.

Yet new relaxations were outpaced by new petitions. In 1861, immediately after grantin


privileges for the "candidates of universities," the Governor General of the Southwest


Krai had asked to allow exit from the Pale to those who completed state professional s


for the Jews, that is, incomplete high school-level establishments. He had vividly des


the condition of such graduates: "Young people graduating from such schools find

themselves completely cut off from Jewish society

according to their qualifications within their own circles, they get accustomed to idl


and thus, by being unworthy representatives of their profession, they often discredit


prestige of education in the eyes of people they live among."[xxxiv]

If they do not find occupations

In that same year, the Ministers of Internal Affairs and Education declared in unison "that a

paramount cause of the disastrous condition of Jews is hidden in the abnormal share of


occupied in commerce and industry versus the rest engaged in agriculture"; and because


this "the peasant is unavoidably preyed upon by Jews as if he is obligated to surrende

r a part

of his income to their maintenance." Yet the internal competition between the Jews cre


a "nearly impossible situation of providing for themselves by legal means." And theref

ore, it

is necessary to "grant the right of universal residence to merchants" of the 2nd and 3


Guilds, and also to graduates of high or equivalent schools. [xxxv]

In 1862 the Novorossiysk Governor General again called for "complete abolition of the

Jewish Pale of Settlement" by asking "to grant the right of universal residency to the


[Jewish] people." [xxxvi]

Targeted permissions for universal residency of certain Jewish groups were being issue

d at a

slower but constant rate. From 1865 acceptance of Jews as military doctors was permitt



and right after that (1866-1867), Jewish doctors were allowed to work in the ministrie

s of

Education and lnterior.[xxxvii] From 1879 they were permitted to serve as pharmacists


veterinarians; permission was also granted "to those preparing for the corresponding t ype of activity,"[xxxviii] and also to midwives and feldshers, and "those desiring to study m


assista ntarts."[xxxix]

Finally, a decree by the Minister of Internal Affairs Makov was issued allowing reside


outside the Pale to all those Jews who had already illegally settled there. [xl]

Here it is appropriate to add that in the 1860s "Jewish lawyers


official BarCollege during that period were able to get jobs in government service wit


any difficulties. "[xli]

in the absence of

Relaxations had also affected the Jews living in border regions. In 1856, when, accord ing to the Treaty of Paris, the Russian state boundary retreated close to Kishinev and Akkerm


the Jews were not forced out of this newly-formed frontier zone. And in 1858 "the decr


of Nicholas I, which directed Jews to abandon the fifty versts [an obsolete Russian me


a verst is slightly more than a kilometer] boundary zone, were conclusively repealed. "[xlii] And from 1868 movement of Jews between the western provinces of Russia and Polish Kingdom was allowed (where previously it was formally prohibited). [xliii]

Alongside official relaxations to the legal restrictions, there were also exceptions a


loopholes in regulations. For example, in the capital city of St. Petersburg "despit


prohibitions, the Jews all the same settled in for extended times"; and "with the asce nsion of

Alexander II


number of Jews in St. Petersburg began to grow quickly. Jewish cap


emerged who began dedicating significant attention to the organization of the Jewish

L. Rozental, AVarshavsky, a


others ."[xliv] Toward the end of Alexander ll's reign, E. A. Peretz (the son of the t ax farmer Abram Peretz) became the Russian Secretary of State. In the 1860s "St. Petersburg star

ted to

attract quite a few members of the commercial, industrial and intellectual [circles] o



community" there; "Baron Goratsy Ginzburg, for example

According to the data of the Commission for Arranging the Jewish Way of Life, in 1880-


6,290 Jews were officially registered in St. Petersburg,[xlvi] while according to othe

r official

figures, 8,993; and according to a local census from 1881, there were 16,826 Jews in S


Petersburg, i.e., around 2% of the total city population. [xlvii]

In Moscow in 1856 the obligation of arriving Jewish merchants to exclusively reside in


Glebovsky Quarter was repealed; "the Jews were allowed to stay in any part of the cit


During the reign of Alexander II 1880 it was around 16,000."[xlviii]

the Jewish population of Moscow grew quickly"; by

It was a similarsituation in Kiev. After 1861, "a quick growth of the Jewish populatio n of Kiev

had began" (from 1,500 in 1862, to 81,000 by 1913). From the 1880s there was an influx



Jews to Kiev. "Despite frequent police round-ups, which Kiev was famous for, the numbe


of Jews there considerably exceeded the official figures

By the end of the 19th ce


the Jews accounted for 44% of Kiev merchants."[xlix]

Yu. I. Hessen calls "the granting of the right of universal residency (1865) to artisa ns" most important. Yet Jews apparently did not hurry to move out of the Pale. Well, if it was


overcrowded in there, so constraining, and so deprived with respect to markets and ear


why then did they make "almost no use of the right to leave the Pale of Settlement?" B


1881, in thirty-one of the interior provinces, Jewish artisans numbered 28,000 altoget


(and Jews in general numbered 34,000). Hessen explains this paradox in the following w


prosperous artisans did not need to seek new places while the destitute did not have t


means for the move, and the middle group, "which somehow managed from day to day

without enduring any particular poverty," feared that after their departure the elders


their community would refuse to extend an annual passport to them for tax consideratio


or even "demand that the outgoing parties return home. "[I]

But one can strongly doubt all this statistics. We have just read that in St. Petersbu rg alone there were at least twice as many Jews than according to official data. Could the slo


Russian state apparatus really account for the mercury-quick Jewish population within


definite time and in all places?

And the growth of Jewish population of Russia was rapid and confident. In 1864 it amou


to 1,500,000 without counting Jews in Poland. [li] And together with Poland in 1850 it


2,350,000; and in 1860 it was already 3,980,000. From the initial population of aroun


1,000,000 at the time of the first partitions of Poland, to 5,175,000 by the census of 1897 — that is, after a century, it grew more than five times. (At the start of the 19th cent ury Russian Jewry amounted to 30% of the world's Jewish population, while in 1880 it was already


This was a major historical event.At the time, its significance was grasped neither by


society, nor by Russian administration.

This fast numerical growth alone, without all other peculiarities of the Jewish Questi on, had

already put a huge state problem for Russia. And here it is necessary, as always in an


question, to try to understand both points of view. With such an enormous growth of

Russian Jewry, two national needs were clashing evermore strongly. On one hand was th


need of Jews (and a distinct feature of their dynamic 3,000-year existence) to spread


settle as wide as possible among non-Jews, so that a greater number of Jews would be a


to engage in manufacturing, commerce, and serve as intermediaries (and to get involve


into the culture of the surrounding population). On the other was the need of Russian

s, as

the government understood it, to have control over their economic (and then cultural)


and develop it themselves at their own pace.


Let's not forget that simultaneously with all these relief measures for the Jews, the


liberating reforms of Alexander II were implemented one after another, and so benefiti


Jews as well as all other peoples of Russia. For example, in 1863 the capitation [i. e., poll or

head] tax from the urban population was repealed, which meant the tax relief for the m


part of Jewish masses; only land taxes remained after that, which were paid from the

collected kosher tax. [liii]

Yet precisely the most important of these Alexandrian reforms, the most historically

significant turning point in the Russian history — the liberation of peasants and the


of the Serfdom in 1861 — turned out to be highly unprofitable for Russian Jews, and in


ruinous for many. "The general social and economic changes resulting from the abolitio

n of

peasant servitude


masses during that transitional period. "[liv] The social change was such that the mul


million disenfranchised and immobile peasant class ceased to exist, reducing the relat


advantage of Jewish personal freedom. And the economic change was such that "the

peasant, liberated from the servitude,

w"; that is, the peasant was now at liberty from the strict prohibition against trading his product

s and

purchasing goods himself — that is, through anyone other than a pre-assigned middlema


(in the western provinces, almost always a Jew). And now, as the landowners were depri


of free serf labor, in order not to be ruined, "they were compelled to get personally


in the economy of their estates — an occupation where earlier Jews played a conspicuou


role as renters and middlemen in all kinds of commercial and manufacturing deals."[l


had significantly worsened the material situation of broad Jewis


less in the need of services by the Je

It's noteworthy that the land credit introduced in those years was displacing the Jew "as the

financial manager of the manorial economy." [Ivi] The development of consumer and cred